Canada to Collect Biometric Data from Visitors of All Countries
Richard Fadden, the soon-to-be head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), recently announced that Canada will soon collect biometric data--such as fingerprints and photos for face recognition--on visitors entering the country from all over the world.
Currently the deputy minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Fadden said that the biometric data measures would be phased in from 2011 to 2013, beginning with higher-risk countries and eventually also applying the new rules to allies such as Britain and France.
“The intention is to capture everybody,” Mr. Fadden told MPs during an appearance before the House of Commons immigration committee yesterday. “The idea is to increase our capacity to know who is in Canada at a particular point of time.”
Although it has yet to be announced how such biometric data will be collected, discussion has ensued surrounding the idea of national ID cards containing the data.
The technology for collecting and identifying photos and fingerprints was tested from October 2006 to April 2007. According to the federal government, the field trials have shown the technology to be reliable and fraud-resistant.
Money for implementing the biometrics system consists of $26 million from the 2008 budget. The measure is to resemble those in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, though some within Canada's own government are calling for further analysis of the need for biometric data.
“We have expressed concerns about the necessity of using biometric information for the purposes of enforcing immigration and refugee laws,” said Valerie Lawton, a spokesperson for the commissioner. “The use of biometrics in border security is increasing and our office will be monitoring these developments closely.”
The Globe and Mail reports that while Passport Canada is "quietly" working on a biometric ePassport, a 2006 report from the Library of Parliament states, "the planned introduction of facial recognition technologies and biometric passports is being done with little or no public debate." Many are uncertain about the new measures in particular with regards to potential misuse or misplacement of such large collections of personal data, such as identity theft.
Biometric technology is raising the stakes in the battle over identity theft. While people can get a new credit card or driver's licence, they can't get new fingerprints.
A quick scan of the Internet shows no shortage of scammers boasting on YouTube of their ability to beat private biometric locks using schemes like artificial fingertips.
A far greater concern, say experts, is the protection of the personal information in government databases. Consumer Reports found in a 2008 investigation that at least 44 million consumer records were lost or exposed by all levels of U.S. governments over a three-year period.
The European Union has already begun use of biometric screening and biometric passports.